Fast Break Points- May 23 Notebook

The Thunder has a very healthy respect for its opponent, the San Antonio Spurs, who have had a high level of success over the past decade and a half. At the same time, however, players like Kevin Durant realize that his team can only control what it does in terms of offensive execution and defensive presence. During this week, the Thunder will continue to build its rapport with one another that has been growing since the team arrived four years ago.

“We’re a group that has been together for four or five years,” Durant said. “We know each other inside and out as well. We’re still, of course, learning each and every single day, but we’re getting it. We just have to continue to keep growing and trusting each other and over the season and over the years that’s what we have been doing, trusting and believing in each other.”

Part of that mutual trust is personified by the Thunder’s ability to spread the ball around, space the floor and not turn it over. During the series against the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers the Thunder has made 17.1 assists per game, while turning it over a Playoffs-best 10.7 times per game. Guard Russell Westbrook, the engine of the Thunder offense, has just playing at his own pace and finding spots where he’s comfortable to attack, saying that he hopes the Thunder’s ball protection to continue in the Western Conference Finals.

“It’s going to be important, like it’s important in any other game,” Westbrook said. “We have to come out and play our game and do what we need to do to get a win… We can’t turn the ball over against great teams. They capitalize on it every single time, and my job is to make sure that we take care of the ball and find a good shot.”

Below are the Fast Break Points from Wednesday's practice as the Thunder prepares for Game 1 in its Western Conference Finals matchup against the San Antonio Spurs.

- Westbrook and Thunder TV’s Grant Long joked about the lights not being on when Russell picks out his outfits for the postgame interview room that TNT’s Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal have been ribbing him for. When he was alerted that he received a few first team All Defense votes, Westbrook said that he plays defense from time to time too with a wry smile.

- Westbrook analyzed Spurs guard Tony Parker, saying that he is quick and stays in attack mode to get guys open threes. The Thunder has to find a way to slow him down. Durant said the Spurs move the ball and Tim Duncan is smart and plays well. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, Gary Neal and Matt Bonner can all shoot the three and the Spurs are well coached.

- Westbrook said he has learned a lot from Derek Fisher about the way that he approaches the game and his championship run experience has been a big help. Durant said that Westbrook has been playing efficiently and under control and his assist and turnover numbers have been great. He knows he can always count on Russell’s mentality.

- Serge Ibaka said the Thunder is just working on itself at this point and its defensive mindset. The team is also focusing on playing against San Antonio and the way it includes the bigs in all of its offensive sets.

- Ibaka said that in the past two years, the Thunder has had to play against teams with a lot of different styles, but nothing has changed for him, he just tries to do his job every night.

- Ibaka said the Spurs run a lot of pick and rolls and have good shooters in the corners. The Thunder has to be able to help in the paint and go out and contest. It will be a challenge but the Thunder can do it, and Durant says a better job of scrambling on closeouts will help as well.

- Durant said that letting the game come to him allows him to play harder on defense, get his teammates involved and be efficient in his shots. If he misses, he can live with those shots because they’re good shots. He’s not trying to shoot himself back in the game, but is being aggressive, not always to score, but on defense, rebounding and making the right play.


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